Epivir is a medicine that can be prescribed to treat AIDS and HIV. It is taken with other HIV medications as part of an HIV "cocktail." A certain form of Epivir is also approved to treat chronic hepatitis B. Most people tolerate the medication well, but potential side effects include fatigue, abdominal pain, and headaches.
What Is Epivir?
Epivir® (lamivudine) is a prescription medication used to treat AIDS and HIV. It is approved only to be combined with other medications for the treatment of HIV. It is not approved to be used by itself. Epivir-HBV® (which also contains lamivudine) is approved to treat chronic hepatitis B.
Epivir belongs to group of medications known as nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs). NRTI medications work by blocking a process that the HIV and hepatitis B viruses need in order to multiply.
HIV (the human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that is responsible for AIDS, and HBV (the hepatitis B virus) is responsible for hepatitis B infection. Like other viruses, HIV and HBV must use a person's own cells to reproduce. However, HIV and HBV are different from many other viruses because they must first convert their genetic material from RNA to DNA. It is the DNA genes that allow HIV and HBV to multiply.
HIV and HBV convert their genetic material into DNA by using a special protein called the reverse transcriptase enzyme. To create DNA, this enzyme uses several different molecular building blocks.
Epivir works by tricking reverse transcriptase into thinking it is one of these molecular building blocks. However, it is just different enough that when used to create DNA, Epivir actually stops the DNA from being made. Without DNA, HIV and HBV cannot multiply. It is important to understand that this drug is not a cure for HIV, AIDS, or hepatitis B.
Written by/reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last reviewed by: KristiMonson, PharmD;
List of references (click here):
Epivir [package insert]. Research Triangle Park, NC: GlaxoSmithKline;2006 October.
Epivir-HBV [package insert]. Research Triangle Park, NC: GlaxoSmithKline;2004 December.
Food and Drug Administration, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Electronic orange book: approved drug products with therapeutic equivalence evaluations. FDA Web site. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/cder/ob/. Accessed February 7, 2014.
Briggs GG, Freeman RK, Yaffe SJ. Drugs in Pregnancy and Lactation. 7th ed. Philadelphia (PA): Lippincott Williams & Wilkins;2005.
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